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Private van insurance - what you need to know

If you own and drive a van, the type of van insurance you’ll need will depend on how you plan to use the vehicle.

White van travels down road

Most typically, vans are used as part of a business – for example to transport and deliver goods, or for tradesman to carry around tools and other equipment.


What is private van insurance?

What if you don’t use your van as part of a business, or for any commercial purpose at all?

Perhaps you’ve got a large family and use your van mainly to transport your kids to sport and social activities.

Or maybe you’re a keen surfer or biker and you need a larger-than-average vehicle to transport all your kit to the beach or the racetrack.

This is when you might consider private van insurance – a type of policy also known as personal van insurance.

This kind of cover is suitable for vans and other light goods vehicles (LGVs) like pick-up trucks provided they are used solely for personal reasons.

Below we describe how this insurance works, who it’s suitable for and how to get cheap private van insurance.


What does private van insurance cover?

Private or personal van policies are purely for people who use their vans for ‘social, domestic or personal’ reasons.

This is also a category when you’re shopping around for car insurance.

Another similarity with car insurance is that there are three main options for private van insurance depending on the level of cover you want:

Third-party van insurance

This is the minimum legal requirement, and it means you’re covered for any damage or injury you cause to any other road users.

With a third-party policy, you won’t be able to claim for damage to your own van in the event of an accident where you were at fault.

Third-party, fire and theft van insurance

As well as the protection offered by third-party cover, this also allows you to claim if your van is damaged by fire. You should also be covered if the van is stolen – or damaged while being stolen.

Comprehensive van insurance

As the name suggests, this type of personal van policy offers all the cover that third-party, fire and theft does.

But it also allows you to claim for damage to your own vehicle – or yourself – in an accident where you were at fault.

For understandable reasons, comprehensive policies are often considered to be the most expensive option. But they offer much more cover and therefore far greater peace of mind.


Optional extras with private van insurance

There are also a number of optional extras that you can choose to add to your private van policy. These could provide additional protection but usually increase the size of your premiums.

These add-ons include:

Breakdown cover

This means that in the event of a mechanical problem, you could have an engineer turn up and fix your van.

Or, if that’s not possible, tow it to your home or your destination.

You can sometimes bundle breakdown cover with your insurance, but it's always best to shop around first.

Legal protection cover

This could help cover the cost of any legal action you need to take, for example against other motorists who’ve caused you or your family personal injury.

It could also underwrite the cost of defending a claim against a motoring offence.

Courtesy van

The option to have a courtesy car or replacement van if your own vehicle is being repaired.

When you’re making a private van insurance comparison, select all the extras you really need. This helps you see the true potential cost of each van insurance quote.

People often want to know how cheap van insurance for private use is likely to be.

The good news is that it could often be around the same price as a standard car insurance policy.

Commercial van policies, on the other hand, are typically more expensive.

This is partly because vans used for business are more likely to be on the road more frequently and at busier times.

Also, because they tend to have more expensive equipment stored in them they’re therefore more of a target for thieves.

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When do I need a commercial van policy?

If you carry out any business-related activity with your van, you might need a commercial van policy.

Business-related activity means anything that you use your van for in order to earn money.

This could be driving people around for a fee, transporting and delivering goods, or using it to carry equipment for your own job.

Note that you might still need a commercial van policy even if you only use it for business from time to time.

What about commuting to work in your van? Unfortunately, this also means you’ll likely need a commercial policy.

Insurers consider commuting to be a business-related activity.

With car insurance you can choose a policy that covers you for social and commuting.

But this is not the case with van insurance.


Van driving licences for private use

Another important question to consider is whether you’re allowed legally to drive any van you’re planning on buying and insuring.

If you have a standard full UK driving licence, this is not necessarily the case.

A full licence of this kind means you can drive a van, pick-up truck or other LGV weighing up to 3.5 tonnes.

Alternatively, it allows you to drive a van or minibus with up to nine seats – although bear in mind this includes the driver’s seat.

Vans and other LGVs that weigh in above the 3.5 tonne mark are classified as Category C1 (also known as Cat C1) vehicles.

You should be allowed to drive a Cat C1 vehicle using your current licence provided you got it before 1997.

If you didn’t pass your test until 1997 or later, you ‘ll need a special Cat C1 licence in order to drive a vehicle weighing between 3.5 tonnes and 7.5 tonnes.

This will require you to apply for a provisional Cat C1 licence and then take a further test.


How to get cheap van insurance for private use

The simplest way to get the best deal on private van insurance is to ensure you compare quotes before you buy.

Different insurers take different approaches to setting premiums and you may find that some providers offer you far lower premiums than others.

That’s why it’s vital to shop around and not accept the first offer you’re given.

The same applies when it comes to renewing your policy each year. You can only be sure your current provider is offering you a good deal if you check prices from their rivals.

There are a number of additional strategies you can employ to cut your private van premiums. Read more here about the different ways you could reduce the cost of van insurance.


Private van insurance pitfalls to watch out for

It’s crucial to make sure you’ve got exactly the right kind of van insurance based on how you use the van.

For example, if you start using your van for commercial purposes even though your policy is for personal use only, you run the risk of having claims turned down.

If your usage changes while your current policy is still in force, you should tell your insurer immediately – and ideally well in advance.

This will give you the opportunity to move onto a commercial policy. This might likely mean an increase in premiums – but it means you won’t be running the risk of driving without the right insurance.


How to get a private van insurance quote

To find out how much private van insurance could cost you, and to compare prices from a wide range of policy providers, you can compare van insurance quotes with us.